What does super spiritual look like? Is it following the laws to the letter? Is it living life in a monastery or in a farming utopia community away from the rest of the world? Maybe it is living with an anguished life that is always outraged at far away injustices. One should be able to tell from my tone that these are not the answer to the question. So what is super spiritual and maybe an even better question would be is super spiritual something that one should seek to achieve?
Spiritual as defined by Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology is a “state of deep relationship to God”. This makes the idea of super spiritual seem odd. A deep relationship with God is either there or not. To add Super to that seems redundant especially if one thinks of a relationship with God to be extraordinary to begin with. The claim to be super spiritual or to accuse someone of being super spiritual is really better understood as super religious. For our purpose here I am going to define religious as the act of keeping or maintain the laws, customs, reverence, and disciplines related to the Christian church that one might be part of. Maintaining all of those rules can be done casually or intensely and in that case when one thinks of a super spiritual person what they might really be thinking of is a super religious person. And super religious people can be just down right annoying, impressive, frustrating, or all of the above at the same time.
Jesus had very harsh words for the super religious of his day. They came in the form of a ruling class of priests who had very detailed ceremonies and rules that must be followed. These men were very proud of their rules and the fact that only they could maintain the order of those rules.
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:25-28 ESV
Paul ran into the super religious even inside the Christian Church. These super religious people actually claimed to be “Super Apostles” claiming to be greater than Paul who was simply a regular apostle. This group of super apostles challenged Paul’s authority and wondered why he seemed week or timid in their presence. Not unlike a coward that boasts of his skills and the weakness of an adversary when said presence is not available.
5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. 2 Corinthians 11:5-6 ESV
So why did Jesus call the super religious hypocrites? He demonstrates the example in a parable.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 ESV
The super religious Pharisee lived according to the laws and he compared himself to the tax collector that was most likely an evil unjust man. The Pharisee exalted his good works on the back of the horrible tax collector. Paul when speaking about the super apostles drew the same parallel.
But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 2 Corinthians 10:12b ESV
Jesus teaching the disciples tells them that the tax collector humbled himself, boasted on nothing in this world, and confessed his failures to God in a real relationship of love, mercy, and God’s forgiveness.
Paul to make a point about the super apostles recounts his resume to let the Corinthians compare between himself and these men who boast in their greatness. Paul’s resume is impressive. He is after all the man called by Jesus to be the minister to the Gentiles and write a large portion of the New Testament. But Paul recounting his resume calls it foolishness to do so.
11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 2 Corinthians 12:11 ESV
Paul tells us that he is nothing. He is humbled in his relationship with God the creator of the universe.
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV
God knowing what the power given to Paul for the good of the Church would make him like the Pharisee kept him humbled and dependent on the only true source of strength. That strength is not in man but God himself and a relationship with the Creator.
Spiritual is a state of relationship with God. Humbled and overwhelmed by His love. Weak but strong by His power. Resting in the arms not of self or men but the work, of Jesus Christ. This is where I want to be. Please don’t call me super religious because I try to live a life honorable to God. I know already how much I standout and make others uncomfortable with the direction of my life. It is not my intent to make people uncomfortable and please do not think I compare myself to anyone else because that as Paul said is foolish for me to do so. Know however that God has found me and started a relationship with me that I am unworthy and unfit to be part of. In that way I am spiritual and I wish to be more spiritual because Christ allows me passage to the King as His child. You too can have this spiritual nature if like the tax collector you humble yourself and ask for his mercy on your life.